AfAS 2021: Conference of the African Astronomical Society

Background and Motivation

The African Astronomical Society (AfAS) was relaunched at the Astronomy in Africa business meeting, which was held in Cape Town at the South African Astronomical Observatory on 25-26 March 2019. The meeting was attended by around 80 participants from 20 nations including astronomers, public stakeholders, and research organizations. The meeting focused on business-related issues of strategy, policy, and governance and the planning of the future of astronomy in Africa. The AfAS Executive Committee elected at the meeting was mandated by the African astronomy community to help realize the mission and vision of the Society as well as achieve its strategic objectives as set out in the AfAS constitution. The AfAS Science business meeting was held in Ethiopia on 10-11 October 2019, it brought together African Astronomical professionals and the international astronomy community to discuss scientific issues, consult on a science strategy for AfAS and how they could be engaged in AfAS activities. It was agreed that the inaugural Annual AfAS Conference would be held in Cape Town in March 2020, this was subsequently postponed to 2021 as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic which prevented all travel and personal contact. The AfAS Executive Committee has now agreed to stage the inaugural annual conference as a totally virtual event from the 8-12 March 2021 and it is anticipated that the  digital platform will attract additional attendees and perhaps talks, as well as allow AfAS to hold the conference without the fear of comprising the health and safety of all participants. The event will focus on the astronomical science emerging from Africa and cultivating collaboration among countries in Africa as well as collaborations between Africa and the rest of the world. The conference will also look at how best to continue to generate interest in astronomy amongst the general public and learners, retaining youth and women in astronomy and strengthening the teaching of astronomy and related sciences.

AfAS 2021

The meeting will focus on the science coming out of Astronomy in Africa and cultivating collaboration among countries in Africa as well as collaborations between Africa and the rest of the world, invoking the objectives and the science strategy developed at the science business meeting . The conference will also look at attracting and retaining youth in astronomy and strengthening the teaching of astronomy and related sciences. 


  • Share astronomy research from across Africa and the Diaspora, promote scientific feedback and  research collaborative discussions.
  • Showcase recent Astronomy development and research output from African countries and the African Diaspora.
  • Provide a platform for discussions on current scientific discoveries, questions and opportunities.
  • Bring together participants in the African Astronomy community so that they can be better organised for astronomy development on and scientific output from the continent.
  • Begin forward discussions and working on the roll-out and implementation of the AfAS Science Strategy.
  • Help define specific concerns and how they contribute to the overall framework for the discussions on how to implement the AfAS Science Strategy.

Expected Outcomes

  • Scientific knowledge exchange, feedback, opportunity and celebration
  • Awareness of activities in Africa both by Africans and potential international collaborators
  • Inspire young African researchers to take ownership and drive the development of astronomy in Africa
  • Identification of strategic partnerships for the implementation of the AfAS Science Strategy
  • Development of new partnerships in the fields of astronomy and big data research in Africa and internationally.

Participants and Registration

The Conference aims to bring together at least 200 participants virtually from various institutions and networks conducting research in the field of astronomy primarily on the African continent. It will be a digital event hosted by AfAS from South Africa. The conference also aims to attract potential industry partners, representatives of Government, policymakers, Inter-governmental, and other international partners from across Africa and the Diaspora. Presenters from the postponed 2020 meeting will be given the opportunity to present their talks and will be contacted by the Local Organizing `Committee to confirm their acceptance., the LOC will also seek additional speakers. 


08 – 12 March 2021, with each day being no longer than 5-6 hours.


The proposed format for the conference is listed below: 

  • Day 1: Science talks
  • Day 2: Science talks
  • Day 3: Science – Education/Development and Outreach 
  • Day 4. Education/Development and Outreach
  • Day 5: AfAS Business focus and EXCO Meeting/ Digital Networking/Other Talks

The keynote plenary talks will take place in the mornings, followed by parallel sessions which are more thematic, The Science, Education/Development and Outreach sessions will include a variety of primarily invited talks and contributed posters. Interactive networking sessions, including the Hackathon, will promote discussions, stimulate conversations.

Local Organising Committee:

  • Yunus Manjoo (Chair) – AfAS
  • Charles Takalana (Co-chair) – DSI-AfAS
  • Kevin Govender – IAU-OAD
  • Mutshidzi Nelawamondo – AfAS 
  • Disebo Dlamini – DSI
  • Tebogo Mashile – DSI
Scientific Organising Committee

The Scientific Organizing Committee consists of the following members:

(The SOC will also plan the Outreach Talks/Activities)

  1. David Buckley (Chair)
  2. Niruj Ramanujam (Co-Chair)
  3. Shazrene Mohamed
  4. Renee Kraan-korteweg
  5. Mirjana Povic
  6. Zara Randriamanakoto
  7. Jamal Mimouni
  8. Kevin Govender
  9. Olayinka Fagbemiro
  10. Sarah A. Masters